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Writers who were published after the age of 40

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Mike Jung

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Recent conversations about writers who got published at a young age got me thinking about the other end of the spectrum - or maybe just, yanno, farther along the spectrum. I love hearing about those writers who get published very early - it's very inspiring, and gives me all kinds of hope about how the industry will benefit from a lifetime of contributions from them. But I'm inspired in an entirely different way by writers who get published later in life. It's largely because that's the situation I'm in - I just turned 41, and if things go my way I hope to see my book on the shelves whlie I'm still in my early 40s. It's also inspirational in that particular never-give-up-on-your-dream way, of course. For the record, I don't actually think there's any kind of "this one's better and this one's worse" evaluation to make with regard to age of publication, because ultimately each writer is unique, not just in terms of their journey to publication but also in terms of their life as a whole. Successful publication of a debut book is a tremendous accomplishment no matter how young or old the writer is at the time.

The two examples of post-40-year-old debut authors that leap immediately to mind for me are Lisa Yee and Kathleen Duey. I believe both were 41 when their debuts were published (although I don't remember exactly). Both are now in the midst of thriving, respected writing careers, both have garnered recognition from critics, fans and award committees, and both are wonderfully engaged members of the kidlit community - active in SCBWI, generous about communicating with aspiring writers, and apparently as kind and likable as can be. If I had to pick one writer to serve as a model for my career path it would almost certainly be either Lisa or Kathleen.

Your thoughts?
#1 - September 15, 2010, 07:39 PM

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I was 47 when my first book came out. Eeek! I thought I was younger. I just turned 50. I can pass for 40. I feel 35.  My soul is 11.  Age is relative.

I'm glad you started this topic, Mike. And you give two excellent examples.

#2 - September 15, 2010, 07:48 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

I guess in this instance I'm proud to be over 40!?!?! My novel came out when I was 42 (gee, only 6 months ago), and a couple of my besties were first published in the decades beyond me. It always amazes me to hear of authors who publish so young. How the heck do people work to support themselves AND bang out a novel to sell when they're barely legal? And I'm equally impressed by those who do it when they're older...maybe not even starting to write until AFTER they've raised their kids...right when you'd think they'd be ready to take it easy and relax. Let me see....I think I'll follow my life dream now that I've toiled to raise and provide for a family.

Kudos to everyone, no matter where you are in your journey!
#3 - September 15, 2010, 07:49 PM
ESCAPING THE TIGER, Bank Street's "Best Books of the Year"
http://lauramanivong.wordpress.com

Tinamarie

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Thanks for starting this thread!  I'm 42, with a one-year-old underfoot, plodding away on my first novel (MG) and sometimes fear that I've started 'too late' but then I smack myself (figuratively) because I know it's a silly way to think about these things.

I don't know many authors' ages, so unfortunately I can't contribute more names at the moment, eager to hear more from others.
#4 - September 15, 2010, 08:25 PM

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What about Betty Birney? Do I have that spelling correct. I'm sure there are a ton. Man, if you guys can drum up names of people who were 45 or over .. that would put a kick in this ol' girl.

#5 - September 15, 2010, 08:30 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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I started writing at, quite literally, 39 1/2.  My first book was published a few months shy of my 45th birthday.  I figure I have a few more good writing years left in me.  ;)
#6 - September 15, 2010, 08:30 PM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)
www.marissadoyle.com
www.nineteenteen.com

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Eric Carle published The Very Hungry Caterpillar when he was 40. It was his second book that he both wrote and illustrated. (His first book both written & illustrated by EC was done just a year prior, at age 39.) But the Caterpillar book is no doubt his most successful.... at over 30 MILLION copies sold since its release.

 :bow :bow :bow :bow Eric Carle is my idol.
#7 - September 15, 2010, 08:41 PM

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My first books came out when I was 40 ... and why not? I had a whole another career before then. I plan to write many books well into my 80s ... well, because I'm very slow ... it takes me a good 20 years after something happens before I can really write about it and I love historical fiction, so see, by the time I write it, it will be history.

I'm pretty sure there are lots of debut authors at every age ... all equally admirable. I had a student who was 76 years old and I hope she publishes a memoir. I loved reading her lessons and her letters.
Vijaya


#8 - September 15, 2010, 09:55 PM
Max & Dagny, Why in the World, Tongue-Tied, Bound, Ten Easter Eggs & 100+ bks/mags
https://vijayabodach.blogspot.com https://bodachbooks.blogspot.com

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My first book was published when I was 42.

Here's a recent list of authors (mostly adult books) with debut novels published after age 40:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randy-susan-meyers/41-over-40-novelists-debuting_b_706576.html?ref=fb&src=sp#s135667
#9 - September 15, 2010, 11:11 PM
« Last Edit: September 16, 2010, 06:16 AM by Debby G »
Author of SILVER PONY RANCH and ZEKE MEEKS series

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Well, I am not quite 40 yet, but I hope I get something published before that day when I get a pile of "over the hill" joke gifts!

I first started trying to write for publication when I was around 22-23...back then I had loads more TIME to do it! I was single and aside from my job, it was 100% free time. The thing is, for me anyway, it took a while for me to really develop my craft...I didn't write anything that was able to interest an agent until I was past 30, and that project didn't sell. Also had a few years when I wasn't writing anything...had a few ideas but I had no clue what to do with them. Just last week my agent finally accepted my WIP, which I'd rewritten from scratch numerous times over the years...and the thing is, now I'm married and have two young children (one is two, the other is only four months.) So at this stage the only time I can really devote 100% to writing are on the train commuting, during my lunch break, and at night after everyone goes to sleep! Occasional very early mornings, too.
#10 - September 16, 2010, 12:02 AM

Stephanie Feagan

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My first book -- adult fiction - was published when I was 45. My first YA will be out next fall and I'll be 50(ish). Heh. True confession: I never thought age would bother me, but it kind of freaks me out how young some YA writers are. I worry I'll show up at signings and people will think, wow, she's like, OLD! Yeah, I know it's all in my head, but aren't all paranoid, self-conscious thoughts in our head?
Thanks for this, Mike. I feel sort of relieved.
#11 - September 16, 2010, 12:59 AM

Second attempt at posting this:
If you look at my avatar, you'll see I am 37 years old, with no hope in the near future of getting published.  I am okay with that.  But what annoys me is the fact that many who discover I am a children's writer ultimately ask why, at my age, do I still write for children?  Because I don't want to write for children.
Saying that, I probably won't be published before 50, so I have another 13 years.
#12 - September 16, 2010, 02:18 AM
« Last Edit: September 16, 2010, 06:07 AM by thunderingelephants »

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Debby, that's a great list.

Vijaya, I'm slow too. I was dealing with elderly parent issues at the same time I was dealing with toddlers, along with supporting the dh's career and pinging across the country like a pinball. And all those years I was honing my craft and getting better and better ... for the first ten years or so I only wrote for magazines and websites and such.

Thanks again, Mike. This is an encouraging thread.
#13 - September 16, 2010, 04:47 AM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder was well into her sixties when her first book was published.  :wow
#14 - September 16, 2010, 05:20 AM
ROLLER BOY (Fitzroy Books, 2018)
AMY'S CHOICE (Luminis Books, 2014)
CALL ME AMY (Luminis Books, 2013)
www.marciastrykowski.com
Twitter: @MarciaStry

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Florence Parry Heide's first book came out when she was 49. She's since written 100 books for young readers. The most recent, PRINCESS HYACINTH: THE SURPRISING TALE OF THE GIRL WHO FLOATED was illustrated by Lane Smith and just came out.

She was born in 1919, sooo... you do the math! 
#15 - September 16, 2010, 05:23 AM
twitter: @literaticat
ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask

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Oooooh ... thanks for that tidbit, Jen. There is hope. :)
#16 - September 16, 2010, 05:24 AM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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I'm pretty sure Lois Lowry and Linda Sue Park were just about 40 when their first books came out.

I was aiming for 40 because of those two.  I am 45 now.  (Whoa. How did I get so old?  But my husband will be 50 next week so he'll always be older than I.)
#17 - September 16, 2010, 05:37 AM
VAMPIRINA BALLERINA series (Disney-Hyperion)
SUNNY'S TOW TRUCK SAVES THE DAY (Abrams)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

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OMG, thanks for starting this thread, Mike! I'm 41 too, and hoping for that first publication in my early forties. I am so glad to hear that not only have many authors we all know achieved this - like Eric Carle and Laura Ingalls Wilder - but many of you "real people" right here as well - awesome!
#18 - September 16, 2010, 05:40 AM

NC Girl

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I published my first novel this year at 43. Finished the first draft the week before my 40th and went to the amazingly inspiring SCBWI conference in NY that week, too. It felt like the perfect way to celebrate that milestone.

I was prepared to be the old lady when I joined the Class of 2k10 (all debut authors), but was probably somewhere in the middle--so it goes to show you, plenty of people are debuting after 40.

As long as you can still tap your inner child or teen, who cares how old you are, right? Living in the town where I grew up I'm faced with memories of my teen self all the time. And my daughter is a junior in high school, so I can experience it all through her and my sons (13 and 10), too.

Isn't 40 the new 20?!!
#19 - September 16, 2010, 05:48 AM

Wm. Steig (his sixties for his books...yes??), Holly Hobbie (her Toots...I think) Don't "" me on that but I am pretty sure. What I am sure of is there are more than you can count.



Fortunately this is an industry where there is neither age discrimination nor body breakdown interference. Whereas with rock 'n roll, and ballet/dance you are pretty much cooked by 30/40. Writing/illustrating nobody cares.



I am am well over 40 and in my prime! ;)

I am doing the best work I have ever done. It is just taking a little longer than I expected.



#20 - September 16, 2010, 05:51 AM
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

Illustration website:

http://www.puddintanesbrain.com

www.puddersputter.blogspot.com

almarrone

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I was 41 when my first book came out in 2007--I'm 44 with my seventh book coming out in March. I didn't start writing until I was around 30 and didn't write continually during the time I started and first sale--pesky kids!
#21 - September 16, 2010, 06:17 AM

I turned 39 today.  I think all you old people are adorable, though.  ::fetches tapioca and turns on Matlock for you::
#22 - September 16, 2010, 06:18 AM

I think I can say with some degree of certainty, that there were quite of people at the conference last week with a few more wrinkles than me.  There is hope...Not sure about the grey hair, though.  I'm developing a few myself.
#23 - September 16, 2010, 06:30 AM

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I turned 39 today.  I think all you old people are adorable, though.  ::fetches tapioca and turns on Matlock for you::

LOL! Thanks for the giggle, Jaina, you whippersnapper, you. :)
#24 - September 16, 2010, 06:33 AM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

JMouse

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Okay, shameless self-promotion here (hey, Matlock's a rerun and I'm out of tapioca, so I'm not that busy... ;-) -- but in honor of my big 4-0, I blogged last month at the Mixed-Up Files about why being an old fart actually makes one quite well-equipped to write for kids.

http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/2010/08/the-view-from-the-middle/

Now, off to see if I can find a good Murder, She Wrote to watch instead...
#25 - September 16, 2010, 06:34 AM

That was a cheap shot, Jaina. ;) I hate tapioca.


Actually, I put my first portfolio together and took a few writing classes when my kids became independent enough for me not to be needed. I also read plenty to and with them when they were young, and learned what they really liked and did not like. I actually blogged a while back about going thru books and deciding what to keep and what to donate. My kids helped in that project and were very forthright about what they loved, and admitted what they didn't.

I also could never do any writing or illustrating while they were very young... it just would not happen... but I did them and I hope I did them well.


Now they are teens and it is my turn ... now I can be selfish. (Rubs hands together)
#26 - September 16, 2010, 06:35 AM
« Last Edit: September 16, 2010, 06:46 AM by AE »
What's for pudding, Mimmy?

Illustration website:

http://www.puddintanesbrain.com

www.puddersputter.blogspot.com

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Thanks so much for starting this thread, Mike. I'm 42 and haven't gotten close to having a book contract yet. I read something in Newsweek a couple weeks back that said the most successful entrepeneurs are 55-64 years old, probably because they've gained so many skills doing other things before. How could that not apply to writing?
#27 - September 16, 2010, 06:37 AM

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My debut will be published when I'm 43!
 :snoopy
#28 - September 16, 2010, 06:41 AM

HB

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I read something in Newsweek a couple weeks back that said the most successful entrepeneurs are 55-64 years old, probably because they've gained so many skills doing other things before. How could that not apply to writing?

Ohhh, I like that! So it only gets better from this point.

41 here.
#29 - September 16, 2010, 06:46 AM

almarrone

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Happy Birthday Jaina, May I suggest a metamucil cake for you--you're just about over the hill.

sigh--my son thinks it's hilarious to call me 'old woman' and point out gray hair.
#30 - September 16, 2010, 07:29 AM

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